Saturday, June 21, 2014

Guide to planning a trip. #101

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Planning for a trip is never easy as there are a lot of things to factor in. Other than those sponsored trips i went for, i can proudly say that i've planned all my overseas itinerary single-handedly. Planning an itinerary really requires a lot of time and effort and i secretly hope that my future other half will be able to do the same as well (so i don't have to be the one planning all the time! LOL) Some people choose the easy way out which is to follow a tour group but i never liked the idea. Yes, it's much easier because you pay a one-time price and all you have to do is pack your luggage and report to the airport at the stated time and date, everything else like accommodation, transport is all settled. Then again, i've heard so many stories of people commenting that tour schedule are always so packed, you will have to wake up early in the morning, you don't get enough time to "enjoy" the stops and you have to move on due to time constraint. Wait, I thought the whole idea of going on an overseas trip was to get away from all the stress and just relax? Hmm...

Planning an itinerary is like a love hate relationship for me. I love to plan and research on the country that i'm going, at the same time, learn about them and finally decide on the places/ attractions that i want to visit. Till date, i've been to Korea 3 times but it was only till the recent trip (which i planned myself since the first 2 trip was sponsored and the itinerary was already dictated.) I then read and realised that on the Korean flag, 4 trigram surrounding the yin yang circle are all different and they each represent a different universal element! I was like SERIOUSLY. Did you know that?

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I thought it would be nice to pen (in this case, type) down my method of planning an itinerary from a scratch and share what are the things i take note of. Before any trip is being plan, the most important thing to do would be to set the date and duration of stay. Ask yourself - "How many days do i need to cover the places that i want to visit?" or like any other working adult like myself, the common question that we ask ourselves would be, "how many days can i afford to be away?" or "how many days of leave can or should i use?" Can't be helped, sometimes you just wished that you can strike a few million bucks from 4D or TOTO and probably don't have to work and travel for the rest of your life. LOLOL

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After you decide on the date and duration, it's time to book the air tickets! With budget airlines which flies almost anywhere now, you can save quite a lot on airfare! But of course, you must take into account that your flight might not be as comfortable compared to taking a economy airline and meals are not provided on board. It really depends on your personal threshold. Do you really need to pay $359 to take Cathay Pacific for a 3 hour flight to Bangkok when you can just pay $157 by Scoot? (the remaining money can be spent on hotel or shopping leh!) Well if you are rich and you don't mind the price, go ahead. With that said, it doesn't mean you should fly budget everywhere you go! Sometimes, economy airlines like SQ does have promotions too! (and budget airlines are not always that cheap, it really depends!) There was one time i was comparing airfares for a trip to BKK and Jetstar cost about $260 and Cathay Pacific was having a promo at just $280. For just $20 more you get to enjoy better seats, 20kg check in baggage and meals onboard, why not! The ultimate website that i would recommend everyone would be Skyscanner. Instead of going to each individual airline site to checkout their price, let skyscanner compare them for you on the spot. So much easier and convenient :D

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Next up would be your accommodation. There are a lot of hotel booking sites online like, trivago, but my personal favorite would be Agoda. Mainly because a lot of people from all over the country uses Agoda and you get to read about their experience and from there, you can decided on whether that particular hotel is to your preference. Then again, Agoda is not always the cheapest so do compare with other websites when you are free and sometimes, you can also check the MAIN hotel website and check for any promotions/ package that might be even cheaper! What is most important to me is that i can get a good night sleep with the basic amenities at a good price (best if there's good WIFI!) since most of the time you will be wandering outside and won't be back in the hotel till late. Oh ya, if you are not those die-die-must-stay-in-hotel type, you can always do your research for hostel or home-stay and surprisingly, you get to save quite a bit of money and at the same time, make new friends from all over the world!!!

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 Now that you got your flight settled, your accommodation settled, technically that's all you need to reach your destination and have a good stay. What you need now is to convert your SGD (or whatever country currency you are using) to the currency of the country that you are going to. It would be good to "monitor" the rates probably 2 weeks before you depart so that you know what's the market rate. Also, try to ask friends that just returned from their overseas trip on the rate they got. What i do is that, every time i pass by a money exchange, i will peek at their chart to see their current rates and make a mental note. After which, do a quick comparison and until you are satisfied with it, then do your exchange. Worse come to worse if you think it's still no good, just try your luck and bring your SGDs to the country and change, there won't be much difference, in fact it might be even better! I tried in both Thailand and Korea and i got better rates compared to my friends who exchange their money in Singapore! By the way, have you heard of the 5 best places to do money exchange in Singapore? Well, i'm not sure if they are still there but in no particular order:

#1: The Arcade at Raffles Place
#2: Lucky Plaza
#3: Mustafa Foreign Exchange
#4: People’s Park Complex Chinatown
#5: Parkway Parade


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There is always a certain reason why you would choose a certain country to visit. Take for example, Shopping for Bangkok. See the Eiffel tower with your very own eyes in Paris, try all the street food in Taiwan night market, secure a love lock on Nansam Tower in Seoul, skydiving at Gold coast and the list goes on and on. What's important when planning an itinerary would be to list down all the places that you would want to visit. Places of interest, places to have good food, places to shop and more. Read about them, digest, get an idea how to get there, know their opening hours, know how much the admission fee and all the information you need to know. Best if you can do up a table with all these details so that it becomes easier for you to take reference from. Print it out and bring it along for the trip, helps a lot!

An example of the table would be like this:
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If you need more ideas on where to go/ visit, i would highly recommend that you to read travelogues of bloggers just by simply google-ing keywords like "country" "travelogue" "blog" "itinerary" and a whole chunk of blogs will come out and if you want the more recent ones just include the year like "2014" in the search and the latest blog posts will surface first.

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Now that you got most of the things settled - Flight, Accommodation, Basic itinerary of where you want to go. It's time to think of how you will get to the places. Unless you are freakin' rich, you probably have to take their public transport so what i like to do is to print out a copy of the country's subway map and start labeling the places that i want to go based on the nearest subway station. Once you are done with labeling, you would have the whole overview of where you would need to travel and if you can find their official subway website that gives you an estimate duration of travel and fare, it would be even better. As a tourist, check if there's any special  train pass for unlimited rides. If the price seem reasonable (you will probably be taking the public transport frequently) get the unlimited pass! It would save the hassle of having to take note of your balance in your transport card and having to top it up every now and then. 麻烦.

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This is something most people will miss out or don't bother to check because they think that weather is gonna be super perfect as long as they are on a holiday. Then again, you can argue that the weather forecast is not 100% accurate because this type of things are acts of nature and uncontrollable but at least by checking the weather forecast the day before you depart, you can have an idea of how's the weather gonna be like throughout your trip. Now, let's take a look:
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If you initially plan to go to the themepark on Saturday, after looking at the weather forecast for the week, would you still choose to go on the Saturday as planned or would you adjust your itinerary so that the day you visit the themepark falls on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday instead? Well, i would rather not take the risk and probably swap the themepark day with another day which i would spend most of the time indoor. Like i said, the weather forecast is not 100% accurate and it really depends on yourself. If the forecast for every day is rainy, probably you will have to try your luck.

Unknowingly i have typed so much. Anyway the above are basically things i take note of and my considerations when planning a trip and the method has work so far! Took me about 3 nights to come up with this post and i hope it will help you in planning your next trip, good luck! I will probably be blogging about my Korea trip next so do look out for it! Meanwhile if you are bored and would like to read some travelogues, feel free to read all of mine at the side bar, LOL